When Ohio State University’s Men’s Basketball Team came to The Barn last night they were rated Number 11 in the country. The Gophers are not rated in the Top 25. The way the Gophers shut them down, the Buckeyes look more like they would be rated Number 11 in the Big Ten!
The crowd was into it, and when you get more than 14,000 people cheering your every move, you seem to play better. At least, that is the home court advantage theory. This is new Gopher coach Richard Pitino's first win over a ranked team in his first season as Gopher coach.
Pitino outcoached Ohio State's Thad Matta too. At least that is my perspective. He did a good job in switching defenses and exploiting Ohio State's weaknesses on the offensive end.
Of course, it always ends up the players need to execute what it is the coach wants them to do. It seems Coach Pitino had a good game plan, and despite poor shooting through much of the game by Minnesota's excellent backcourt, the Gophers had the Buckeyes down by 13 points with just a little over five minutes to go in the game. Final score: 63-53 and Minnesota had a signature win in the Big 10 Conference.
If you are not a sports fan or following all the conference realignments going on in the NCAA these last several years, the Big Ten has 12 schools and will expand to 14 next year when Rutgers and Maryland join the conference. They are still going to call it the Big Ten! Go figure. It is all about money!
The electricity in The Barn last night was as exciting as last year when the Gophers upset then Number 1 Indiana and the crowd rushed the floor like nothing I have ever seen at Williams Arena.
If you have ever been to a Gopher basketball game in Williams Arena, you know how exciting it can be during a close Big Ten game in January, February and early March!
My mom watched the game, and commented on how many times the announcers made reference to the atmosphere and fun it was to watch a game in the venerable old arena. Williams Arena has undergone major renovations since it was built in the late 1920s, and remains the fourth or fifth oldest arenas in the country with the charm like that of Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas where the University of Kansas plays. I also got to see a game between Missouri and Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse, and it was a real treat!
It remains one of only three raised courts in the country and has so much charm of going into an old, structurally sound, venue that just draws you in. I have had season tickets since I was a student in the mid-1970s, and it is nights like last night that keep me in Minnesota in these cold winters.
I must admit I was skeptical about how the season was going to go this year after losing several seniors and firing Tubby Smith; but, I have seen steady improvement in the team so far this season and last night was the one that has me believing the Gophers can close out a big game over a good team and will make the Big Dance field of 64 for March Madness! That is always a fun month. That is, if you like college basketball like I do.
I look forward to your comments.